Britain may not have a Wild West, or Cowboys and Indians, but it does have a thriving jeans industry. London-based Pepe is 21 years old; Joe Bloggs, from Manchester, a mere eight. Both are, of course, babies compared with jeans giants such as Levi's and Lee, which date - as their 'heritage' advertising continually reminds us - from the mid-19th century.

Selling jeans is all about image. Whatever the advertisements say, jeans are jeans, whether they are Joe Bloggs' or Levi's. It is mainly the marketing associations that make one pair more desirable than another, and the young companies have had to be savvy to compete with the big brands.

From Nick Kamen in his smalls in a Fifties launderette to the homesteader virgins lurking by a lake, Levi's ads have sold its jeans on American nostalgia - never mind that Nick Kamen is British and the Levi's you buy in Britain are made in Northampton. Pepe and the more mass-market Joe Bloggs have sought different images to sell their products.

Marilyn Monroe wore jeans. So did James Dean and John Wayne. So, points out Pepe, do ordinary British people in 1994. The company was founded from a stall on the Portobello Road, and it has keyed into its own heritage, adding the word 'London' to its logo and romancing its own (short) history. Gone is Jason Priestley, the teen dream from Beverly Hills 90210, and in his place is a west London gang hanging out on the Portobello Road.

Mark Blenkinsopp, European marketing manager for Pepe, believes 'everyone is blinkered into Americana. But they will become bored with that.'

Joe Bloggs has never gone the American way. Having grabbed attention with a billboard campaign promising 'Everyone snogs in Joe Bloggs' (a slogan which means nothing in America), its latest campaign is about everyday life in working-class Britain, with a group of friends doing daft things in one of their parents' back gardens. The new advertisements are not sultry and sexy; they are intended to make people smile.

While we have to accept a glut of American images, the same does not work the other way round. Pepe sold pounds 20m of jeans in Europe last year and pounds 100m in America. (By comparison, Levi's had dollars 5.9bn sales worldwide.) But the under- 25s in the States are not going to be swayed by a slice of Portobello Market life, so Pepe is using an alternative campaign there, featuring (for the second season) Bridget Hall, a 16-year-old Texan babe. Only on MTV will viewers on both sides of the Atlantic see the London Pepe advertisement.

Levi's has no reservations about feeding Britain another slice of American pie for its autumn promotion. This time around it is the Forties, and the movie-in-miniature features a square-jawed, blue- eyed rigger who refuses to have his Levi's cut off when he arrives in hospital after a fall from an oil rig. A nurse wearing too much lipstick finds that this is something to swoon over.

You may feel you have been sold this pair of jeans before.

(Photograph omitted)

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